Warning: I state my beliefs on corporal punishment here. People who oppose any form of physical discipline for children might find it rather offensive, and it may disturb victims of abuse. I don't advocate beatings, but I know this is a very personal and touchy subject.
Self Cleaning Cee-ment Ponds, and Other Imponderables of Classic Television, 1/?
When you are a child you either question everyone to death about (what is to them) trivialities, or you simply accept things without question. Most of us do a little of both. I used to scare the crap out of my mother by asking questions about Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper. *thinks fondly of Fangoria Magazine collection*
Well, since the mid (maybe early?) fifties, a good portion of America has received a great, honking amount of information about life through the medium of television, and let's remember, we haven't had 'reality shows'... *snort* *snicker* *sniff* Sorry, can't even type that with a straight face. 'Reality'. Sheesh. Anyway, for most of that time TV fare has had only a glancing resemblance to anything most of us would recognize as 'real life'. I'm not necessarily talking about series that featured mothers turned into cars, genii in bottles, nose twitchin' Wiccans (Yes, I know Samantha wasn't, but I couldn't resist the almost rhyme), or families harboring Alien Life Forms. No, the ones where someone in the pitch meeting had to have said, "Okay, so you don't know anyone like this, or in this situation. Neither do I--BUT IT COULD HAPPEN!"
These are just a few questions about what I've seen on television (mostly in my youth and childhood).
Who cleaned the Clampetts' cee-ment pond? I've never had a pool, but I'm given to understand that cleaning and caring for them is a major industry in California. I have no trouble imagining Ellie Mae figuring out how to operate a skimmer net, and keeping the pool free of leaves, but aren't pools supposed to become pre-tty nasty if their chlorine and ph, or whatever, aren't kept up? Don't they require regular testing and adjusting, not to mention occasional draining to clean filters? Even if the Clampett's ran into a pool kit, I have a hard time believing they'd be able to figure out what it was, and how to use it--not even Jethro, with his sixth grade ed-i-cation.
Well, obviously the pool never ended up murky, or green and scummy, so someone HAD to be taking care of it on a regular basis. I can see Mr. Drysdale arranging for a pool service to come around and take care of business. What I CAN'T imagine is Granny not taking a shotgun to some stranger she found pouring unidentified substances into what she would consider a water supply. "AHHHH! Ellie Mae, fetch m' shotgun! Thars a strange varmit out thar poisinin th' cee-ment pond!" *Ellie Mae eyes pool boy* "Aw, Granny, I think he's kinda purty. Maybe he wants t' wrassle."
Oh, and most neighborhoods out there don't even want a truck (not even a nice 4x4) parked on their block, unless there's a Japanese or Hispanic gardener working out of it. Do you mean to tell me there wouldn't be a Neighborhood Standards Committee down on the Clampetts the second they put their... What the hell WAS that they drove? Anyway, the second they slapped that puppy in park someone would have been writing a nasty notice.
On a side note--as sex crazed as Jethro always was, why did he never notice the pheromones oozing off Miss Hathaway? It wasn't that he rejected her--it never got that far. He just never NOTICED, and sometimes Jane was almost as subtle as a hand down the front of the pants.
Then there was the Married Sleeping Arrangements peculiarity. I don't know about y'all, but in OUR household, kids slept in single beds--Mom and Dad slept in a BIG bed--TOGETHER. As young as I was, I knew that they didn't sleep apart unless we were, say, visiting, and there just weren't enough beds to go around. Even then they'd usually manage a bed together, while we had pallets on the floor (hey, we thought this was a treat). But on television...
I'm sure there are numerous examples, but the two I remember most clearly were the Ricardos and the Petries. *sigh* For those of you who never watch Tvland or Nick at Night, they're from I Love Lucy, and The Dick Van Dyke show respectively. Each of these couples (both of whom had produced offspring) had the same basic furniture in their bedrooms--a set of single beds... with a nightstand between them. Dunno about y'all, but now that I'm grown, that reminds me of the Mark Chestnut song... *warbles* "It's too hot to fish, too hot for golf... and it's too cold at hoooome." Of course Mark goes on to leer about the 'good lookin' thing in the corner' smiling back at him, so I think we have a clue as to why it's too cold at home.
I guess the question raised by the above observation is this--where were Little Ricky and Ritchie conceived? I'll grant you that it's POSSIBLE to have sex in a single bed. I can't imagine that it's as much fun as it could be, though. Maybe they had double beds before they had the kids, then got singles as another method of birth control? I mean, you never hear them mention diaphragms, condoms, or even coitus interruptus. Wait--you never hear them mention sex at all. Maybe the kids were adopted, and those cute 'YIKES! The baby's coming--let's go get stuck in an elevator' flashbacks were just stories made up for the sake of the kids?
Next question--exactly how much underwear did women wear beneath their nightclothes? We can set aside the fact that most nightgowns looked substantial enough to be used as party dresses today. But every time a woman appeared in a nightgown, negligee (and why they bothered with them, I'll never know. It was usually like throwing on a layer of gauze--nothing was concealed) or pair of pajamas, her figure never showed any difference.
People, this was the day of Sears 'Almost As Good As a Breast Plate' bras, and girdles that were considered legitimate deterrents to roaming hands. I know--I grew up in the tail end of this era, and my Mom lived through it. Granted, as a child I got away with the minimum, and Mom never wore more than the bra and panties when she was just around the house, but...
Okay, not so much Laura Petry (who is credited with starting the Toreador pants craze)--she actually dressed casually. But June Cleaver, Donna Reed, Lucy Ricardo, and dozens of others seemed to waft through life in clothes that most people in my social strata would have considered 'good enough for Sunday' clothes, and that meant FULL foundation garments. Looking at them, you KNEW that they were wearing hose, and that meant HOSE, not pantyhose. Therefore there had to be either a girdle or a garter belt, and I'm pretty sure that even back then garter belts (except maybe for the white elastic kind that looked a lot like the sanitary pad belts I had to use way back when--and if you don't know what I'm talking about--that's another essay) were considered a bit... not quite DONE.
But no one--NO ONE--I've ever known sleeps in any more underwear than their panties (I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm just saying it's RARE). When these women got into a nightgown or pajamas--the bosom didn't do anywhere. I mean we didn't get a MILIMETER of droop or sag, and these weren't teenagers. None of these women were still at the stage where they could, to quote Ellain Boosler 'just walk those puppies into a bra'. Yet there they are--never a jiggle or bobble. The breasts move as a united, solid front. Either they were wearing their bras under their nightgowns--or they were doing boob jobs a lot earlier than we thought.
Perhaps this relates to the 'two beds' question above.
Where were they coming up with all the lenient parents? For as far back as I can remember, kids have been getting away with stuff that would have brought immediate and righteous physical response from my parents.
You might want to skip this part if you believe that any and all physical punishment of children is wrong. I don't, but I don't try to force my discipline views on other people. Each parent must decide how to deal with their own child. It's just that I was constantly astonished at what the kids on television 'got away with'.
Arguing with a parent. If I disagreed with some decision or pronouncement, I'd better not push it. "But Mom..." was never the start of a good conversation. Protesting that something wasn't fair brought the response of, "Life ISN'T fair." I remember once that my brother, trying to weasel out of doing his homework, complained about my Mom's flat order to do the work because she said so by saying, "But this is a Democracy!" Mom replied, "No. America is a Democracy. This house is a totalitarian regime--and I'm the dictator." I then piped up, "And Dudley (stepdad) is the puppet ruler." *heh* I made sure he wasn't there when I said it. I'm nuts, but I'm not stupid.
Anyway, a child could disappear without telling anyone where they'd be, drive his parents frantic with worry, show up again, and get a hug, tears, and maybe a scolding. I did that and I got a hug, tears, and a whipping I remembered for a long, LONG time--because I KNEW better. It wasn't much different with anyone I knew. Sassing got you punished. Lying got you REALLY punished. Stealing--the humiliation of having to admit to the store owner what you'd done paled next to the thought of how your butt was going to feel. Fighting with your siblings? You BOTH got it, no matter who started it. Television parents almost never raised their voices, hardly ever frowned at the kids, and punishment never exceeded grounding, or maybe the loss of allowance. I couldn't understand it. Where were these parents coming from? The first time they had a family dynamic I could relate to was on Good Times, where it was made clear that the father's belt got occasional work outs. And the kids dealt with it the way I did. "Crud! I KNEW this was going to happen! Why did I do that? Oh, well, let's get it over with."
What possessed these television kids to try to use nit-picking logic on their parents? "Well, you didn't say I COULDN'T..." My parents' standard reply was, "Maybe not, but you KNEW better!" Sometimes being credited with intelligence could work against you.
Pets. Okay, if they had pets at all, they tended to have dogs. I can understand that. Cats didn't become the favored pets until recently (going by some statistical article I read). To the best of my knowledge, no TV dog ever humped anyone's leg. That just isn't normal, people. There was never any mention of spaying or neutering, yet the families were never overwhelmed by unwanted puppies or kittens. Every member of every litter always found a loving home (though occasionally trying to get rid of kittens was used to comic effect). Speaking of cats, if there WAS a cat in residence, you never saw any evidence of a litter box. What did they do--teach the cat to use the toidy, and flush? No, wait--these shows never seemed to actually HAVE toilets in the house, did they? Bathrooms were for taking showers (though I don't think you actually saw the shower or tub--but someone occasionally came out in a robe with a towel around their hair), brushing teeth, and female primping.
Still on the matter of pets. What size pooper scooper did Herman Munster have to have for Spot, the dragon? I can picture him in a park, carrying a shovel and a canvas bag. Can you imagine what it would have been like if Spot ate something that didn't agree with his digestion? I imagine that in the confines of the basement, under the stairs, it could have gotten nasty pretty fast if a dragon had diarrhea.
Honey West kept an ocelot, which I thought was unutterably cool. As an adult I think, "Where the hell were the animal control officials to enforce exotic pets laws. She kept it in an apartment, mostly on a leash on a sofa, if I recall. The poor beast couldn't have gotten much exercise. And if you think a domestic cat's litter box odor is rank... *phew* You've never been around wild cats.
That little dog in Petticoat Junction (actual name Higgens--Junction name Dog or Boy--he went on to be Benji) struck me as smarter than Uncle Joe. Why didn't Kate leave HIM in charge of the Shady Rest occasionally? I'm sure he wouldn't have tried as many crackbrained schemes as Joe.
Words. Did these people not know the term 'pregnant'? Lucy was 'expecting' (actually, I'm not even sure I remember this. Surely that wasn't too crude for them?), 'in a family way', 'in a delicate condition', or 'enceinte'. Yes, that last is 'pregnant' in French. Apparantly they could say it in French, but not English. *rolls eyes*
And where was all the swearing? Oh, I don't mean swearing as we think of it now--graphic obscenities. I was almost in my teens before I heard the word 'fuck' from a less-than-respectable classmate. When I asked my mother about it she nearly fainted, didn't explain what it meant except that I was NEVER to say it again, and promptly started to try to find out the phone number of the kid's parents. No, not the 'biggies'. But I heard a healthy smattering of what would be considered on the borderline back then.
Dad was an old country boy, who had served in the Merchant Marines, all over the world. The term 'salty' might describe his vocabulary. He never uttered the REALLY bad stuff. Mom says he once slipped and said 'fuck', then almost blushed himself to death and apologized profusely to everyone present. Oh, but Dad peppered his speech with 'shit', 'crap', 'hell', and 'damn'. Never 'God damn', though. That brought in taking the Lord's name in vain. Didn't do that. 'Damn' would have gotten me in deep trouble. 'God damn' might have landed me across the room. Oh, and would someone tell me why 'crap' is more socially acceptable than 'shit'? I still haven't figured this one out.
But these adults on television NEVER used a 'four letter word', no matter how stressed, or how appropriate it would have been to the situation. C'mon. Hubby has forbidden you to spend any more money on clothes, but you NEEDED something special for an upcoming event. Brilliant idea! You'll get one 'on approval' from a fancy store, wear it once, clean it, and return it for your money back. While you're ironing it (yes, they didn't have a lot of wash-n-wear back then), you lay a big scorch mark on it. BUSTED! I'd think that would deserve at least one little 'SHIT!', if not a heartfelt 'fuck!'.
There are many more questions raised by my early television viewing. I'll post them later, as they occure to me. :)